While the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) market is forecast to grow impressively all across ASEAN, Thailand is ahead of the game. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) there are currently 80 million every day internet connected devices, such as trash bins, in use across the country. The overall market value was estimated at 58 million USD by Frost & Sullivanin 2014. Yet, by 2020 the number of devices will have more than doubled, reaching 190 million, with the market value achieving a record of 973 million USD. Sigvart Von Eriksen, CMO of Communication Public Limited Company, even forecasts the market to grow to about 400 million devices in just four years.
The growth spurt is driven in big parts by the introduction of 4G wireless broadband networks across the country under the Digital Thailand plan. According to the government´s plan, 30,000 villages will go online in the next few years, and more than 10,000 shall receive free WiFi connection. Besides, an increasing number of “smart city” initiatives are encouraging growth and innovation. In 2016, more than 97 million USD of government funds will flow into “Phuket Smart City”, with the aim to improve productivity, raise standards in waste management and manage traffic more efficiently. Major projects making Phuket “smart” are traffic management via sensors, closed-circuit television and red-light cameras. CCTV integration and big data analytics analyze the network data in order to make traffic smoother. Setting the standard for climate change management in the region, an Intelligence Operation Centre monitoring changes in land and sea for environmental and climate protection purposes has been established. The Thai government has recognized the potential of smart technologies in solving many of the county´s challenges. In order to ensure state of the art innovation, the government funded IoT City Innovation Center is charged with developing ideal solutions for Thailand´s IoT needs. Interestingly, far from being a bureaucratic government dinosaur, the center partnered up with major local companies to ensure knowledge exchange. Furthermore, great importance is being put on ensuring match making between local developers and global technology providers such as Dell, IBM and Cisco.
While the government is one of the most relevant customers, private consumption, too, is booming. Smart watches, games, home appliances and fitness gadgets, in particular, are seeing high demand. Demand in the industrial sector is less pronounced but is expected to grow quickly, especially for IoT sensors in robots, connected machine tooling or shipping containers. Furthermore, the agriculture sector represents a non-negligible growth market. As agriculture remains a core industry in many ASEAN countries, companies and governments increasingly grasp the potential of efficiency enhancing IoT solutions in a sector often suffering from low productivity rates. Thailand´s biggest agro-group, Charoen Pokphand, has already invested in a daughter company solely focused on IoT innovation.
ASEAN´s societies are increasingly looking for innovative solutions in managing current societal, industrial and environmental needs. “Smart city” initiatives driven by government spending are spurring demand for IoT solutions across the region. In addition, as the trading bloc´s economies move up the value chain in the coming decade, there will be unprecedented demand for productivity enhancing industrial IoT solutions. Companies positioned in ASEAN will have the unique benefit of strong government support, a growing pool of skilled employees in the field and competitive production costs, while at the same time being in close proximity to one of the world’s biggest IoT markets.